While Smoke on the Water co-organizer Josh Finnigan carefully shied away from the question, I’m left wondering if the 2019 event was a dress rehearsal for El Reno becoming a possible stop on the Southern Drag Boat Association racing schedule.
SDBA has been in place since 1974 and sports racing in nine different divisions. One of those uses boats that require a full capsule surrounding the driver for safety as those crafts reach speeds over 160 miles per hour.
“I can’t comment at this time but Smoke on the Water welcomes the idea of bringing an SDBA race here after ours,” said Finnigan.
Adding to the mystery was that the SDBA loaned its safety boat for the El Reno races this season. In addition, its social media director and photographer was on hand for the first time as well as owner and series director David Carroll.
El Reno Mayor Matt White said the city had indeed spoken with the SDBA in the past and would love to do so again.
So why is everyone waiting?
Are they wondering if Lake El Reno can handle the big boats of the SDBA?
We found that out Sunday when Texan Eric DeMent, a Pro Outlaw driver on the SDBA circuit, ran the shortened 660-foot course at triple-digit speeds in his capsule boat.
“Eric is a good friend of mine and he lives south of Austin. He came here out of the goodness of his heart to do this. He travels the United States and says this is one of the best places he has been,” said Finnigan.
Finnigan said DeMent could have easily kept his capsule boat on the trailer.
“He got here on Wednesday and found out his blower was broken from a previous SDBA race he had won in San Angelo, Texas.
“That’s a $15,000 part and he found another one and went and got it but it didn’t work. He took that one back and ended up borrowing a blower off another boat just to make that exhibition pass,” said Finnigan.
There was a salute in that pass to another SDBA driver lost in the past year, Bruce Hunter.
“Those boats use a parachute to slow down. We had a cut-up Smoke on the Water shirt and a shirt from his boat (Hunter) cut up in the chute to honor Bruce. We honored Bruce’s family Saturday night and this was sort of his last ride,” said Finnigan.
An emotional farewell pass, for sure, and I hope a welcoming run to El Reno for the SDBA.
Can we give that a green light?